City council members, who are local legislators, should take their role seriously and be aware of all their duties to best serve their community. They are responsible for and responsive to the citizens who elected them, according to the National League of Cities.
City council members also are paid for their service to the citizens.
Depending on the city's charter and state laws, city council members may be tasked with an abundance of missions including reviewing and approving the annual budget; overseeing the performance of local public employees; passing ordinances and resolutions; and entering into legal contracts.
Recently, The Eagle Post, a sister publication of The Kentucky New Era, reported Oak Grove City Council neglected to conduct the proper bidding process for trash services provided to the city.
According to Kentucky Municipal Statutory Law, all agreements between a city and franchise must be bidded out for 18 months before they can be reinstated or renewed. The current contract for trash services ended before the bidding process began. The full article is available in the June 13 edition of The Eagle Post.
What's done is done, so let's not waste time wondering how or why the bidding process did not happen. Unfortunately, slip ups like these are a common occurrence for small cities like Oak Grove, according to the Kentucky League of Cities.
Just because it frequently happens, doesn't make it OK or legal.
City council members everywhere, not just Oak Grove, need to do their homework, read everything they can get their hands on and really put in the legwork to know the laws that govern the council they sit on.
The Kentucky League of Cities offers free training to city leaders through The City Officials Training Center, which educates elected city officials on "the nuts and bolts education to help (leaders) do their job at city hall," according to the website.
Many states also require city council members to attend an orientation where a lot of groundwork is laid explaining their roles in local government. Orientations would be a great opportunity for council members to ask questions and acquaint themselves with the mayor and city employees they will be serving alongside.
When this education and training doesn't happen, citizens are the ones who suffer.
Oak Grove's trash services situation is an all-too-close-to-home example of this lack of education in local government.
With that being said, we would like to give credit to Wendell Outlaw, who owns Bobby Outlaw Disposal Service, for agreeing to continue providing trash services to the City of Oak Grove on the strength of an 18-month contract with the city during the interim of the required bidding process.
Outlaw did not have to agree to this arrangement, and we think his cooperation with the city should be recognized.
The New Era also wants to commend Oak Grove City Attorney Mark Gilbert, who repeatedly encouraged the city council to right the ship now instead of kicking the yarn ball down the road for a potentially new council to untangle years from now.
Regardless of what the city council has been allowed to do for more than 20 years with the trash service contract, the city shouldn't continue doing it because it is unconstitutional.
Respect to Gilbert for putting in the time and effort to do the research and informing the city what was being done was wrong. It could have ended a lot uglier than it did.
Now, in this process, the role of citizens does not go unnoticed. City council members are elected officials. If citizens want the best representation at city council, we have to vote for the best people.
That means showing up for local elections and voting for council members who will represent our best interests.
To city council members everywhere, put in the study hours and don't disappoint us -- the citizens. After all, we are the ones who voted for you.